Social Service Groups Serve Rauner $100M Lawsuit Over Unpaid Bills

Gov. RaunerFriday, May 6, 2016 || By Michael Romain 

A group of 64 human and social service agencies and companies in Illinois filed a $100 million lawsuit against Gov. Bruce Rauner and the directors of six state agencies on Wednesday. The coalition, called Pay Now Illinois, is seeking money those entities claim they’re owed for contract work with the state dating back to July 1, 2015 — the starting date of the state’s current fiscal year for which lawmakers still haven’t passed a budget.

The lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, claims that the Republican governor’s June 25, 2015 veto of 27 funding bills passed by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly in May constituted “unlawful impairment, or interference, with the agencies’ constitutional right to a legal remedy for the non-payment of these contracts,” according to a May 4 statement released by Pay Now.

Three of those bills earmarked funds for human services and contained “the vast majority of the services covered by contracts at issue” in the lawsuit. Pay Now noted that the value of those unpaid contracts for its 64 coalition members “exceeds $100 million.”

The 64 agencies and companies mentioned in the suit are among the largest social service providers in the state. Many of them have multiple locations and service thousands of clients. Their services include providing housing for homeless people, sex abuse counseling, healthcare and programs for at-risk youth.

One of those organizations, Youth Outreach Services, Inc., has locations in Melrose Park, Bellwood and Oak Park. The organization also had a location in Maywood at 1100 S. 11th Ave. (pictured below), where it partnered with Maywood CeaseFire in addition to providing other services, until the doors were closed in July due to the state’s budget crisis.

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Rick Valesquez, the organization’s CEO, said he’s had to lay off almost half of his staff and cut vital services. Many of those services, he noted, are disproportionately located in poor areas.

“Over this time last year, we had about 124 staff,” Valesquez said in a recent phone interview. “Today, we’re down to about 70 staff members. This budget crisis has cost people their jobs … And most of the layoffs tend to be concentrated in those programs that work with high-risk kids and in areas where there are low-income families, high rates of crime and poor school performance.”

Valesquez noted that his organization services families across Cook and DuPage Counties, including many parts of the West Side of Chicago and the western suburbs.

“You don’t see the cuts in state budgets affecting children’s families in Oak Brook,” he said. “Do the math.”

In a May 4 article, the Chicago Tribune published a statement by Catherine Kelly, a spokeswoman for the governor.

“While we understand that frustration is driving many worthwhile organizations to seek solutions anywhere, including the courts, the only solution is for the General Assembly to pass a balanced, reform-oriented budget as soon as possible,” Kelly said. VFP

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